Nearly all blood glucose meters are small, portable and fast at providing results. But that’s where the similarities end. Of the six dozen or so blood glucose meters currently on the market, there are many features to choose from. When shopping for a glucose meter, consider the following features to find the meter that best fits your needs.
Storage of data
Most blood sugar meters hold between 100 and 450 test results. There are a handful that have the capacity to save far more. For example, the One Touch Ultra Smart meter (made by Lifescan) can store over 3,000 test results. Larger amounts of storage is especially helpful if you want to use the download option to save your test results to your computer and use compatible software to see long-term trends. You can find a list of the blood sugar meters with the most storage here.
Blood Sample Size
As meter technology improves, the blood sample needed for an accurate blood test gets smaller. Required blood samples range from the large 3.0 microliters (gDrive meter, made by Genesis Health Technology, which is made to work with a smart phone) down to 0.3 of a microliter for the smallest sample. There are several companies that now use the latest technology for a 0.3 microliter blood sample (visually about the size of a dot from a ball point pen). See a listing of these meters. Unless your blood sugar meter offers other appealing features that warrant a larger blood sample, a smaller sample is often preferable. Of course, the less blood that is needed for an accurate result the less squeezing or massaging that is needed to extract the blood sample.
Many blood sugar meters offer the option to download your test results to a computer so you can create graphs and spreadsheets that can help you better manage and troubleshoot your diabetes care plan. This can be very helpful to you and your diabetes healthcare team for identifying trends and patterns that are working well and those that need revising. The meters that offer the option to download your test results usually have accompanying software that will allow you to create spreadsheets, graphs and diagrams with your results. This software usually comes with the meter and is easy to use.
A number of meters offer a backlit display that is helpful in a number of situations where you must check your blood in low-light areas. Though not an essential feature, it is a particularly helpful one to have when you need it. Parents of children with diabetes often find this feature essential if they need to check their child’s blood sugar in the middle of the night.
Some meters require you to “calibrate” or manually program your meter with each new box of strips so that the meter will correctly recognize the strips being used. Newer technology, found in a number of blood sugar meters, eliminate the coding process.
Coding is a simple process that consists of inserting the coding strip (which comes with the test strips) into the meter before you perform your first blood sugar test of each new batch of strips. Though it takes only a minute of time, many people prefer to skip this step and choose meters that do not require coding. This is often an especially attractive feature for those with visual impairments.
Special Meter Features
These features are only found on a few meters but can be very helpful additions to your diabetes management plan.
Blood Ketone Testing
In addition to testing blood glucose, two meters also provide the ability to test blood ketones. It is particularly important to test for ketones during periods of illness. Traditionally, ketones have been measured with urine strips, but the American Diabetes Association now recommends blood ketone testing as the more accurate and preferable method for detecting ketones. Glucose test strips cannot be used in these meters to test for blood ketones. A special type of test strip needs to be purchased to test for blood ketones.
Insulin Pump Communication
Three blood glucose meters have the ability to communicate directly with an insulin pump. These meters require special programming and set-up for the communication between pump and meter to work properly.
Blood Pressure Readings
Five blood sugar meters also provide the option to test your blood pressure using the same device. Each of these meters has a wrist or arm cuff that is either attached or can be connected to the meter device. The cuff inflates, measures the blood pressure and then displays the result on the device.
You can see a listing of all the above features for each of the following categories of blood sugar meters. Find meters that:
- Audibly “speak” your results
- Measure blood pressure
- Communicate with an insulin pump
- Measure blood ketones
- Require the smallest blood sample
- Have the greatest data storage capacity
Your guide to getting started with blood sugar monitoring.